The Remote Associates Test (RAT) was developed by Sarnoff Mednick in the 1960s as a test used to measure creative convergent thinking. Each question on the RAT test lists a group of words, and requires that we provide a single extra word that will link all the others together.
Often, these words can be associated in a number of ways, such as by forming a compound word or a semantic association. “Creative thought” is called upon to find the right answer because the first and most obvious solution is often wrong.
Only when more remote connections have been retrieved can the participant relate the three words to each other.
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Here are some examples of RAT test questions:
Square / Cardboard / Open - BOX
Broken / Clear / Eye - GLASS
Coin / Quick / Spoon - SILVER
Time / Hair / Stretch - LONG
Aid / Rubber / Wagon - BAND
Let’s try some more, slightly harder this time:
Sense / Courtesy / Place - COMMON
Flower / Friend / Scout - GIRL
Opera / Hand / Dish - SOAP
Wheel / Hand / Shopping - CART
Fox / Man / Peep - HOLE
And harder questions below:
Home / Sea / Bed - SICK
Fence / Card / Master - POST
Illness / Bus / Computer - TERMINAL
Wise / Work / Tower - CLOCK
When to use this test
As stated earlier, the RAT test was created to measure creative thinking skills. Mednick believed that the RAT test could be particularly useful for helping to identify creatively gifted students, and that the students who score well in a RAT test could be placed in special educational programmes.
RAT tests are still used by psychologists to test for creativity, but bear in mind they only measure convergent thinking skills. This is because each group of words ‘converges’ to a single answer. There are also other types of creative thinking that can be tested. For example the Alternative Uses Test measures divergent thinking, i.e. your ability to come up a wide range of solutions to a single problem.
Problems with the RAT test
A possible weakness of this test is its focus on verbal associative habits – meaning it might be more difficult for non-native speakers of English. Also, it may not favour those who are more comfortable with visual thinking.
Some researchers have even suggested that the links between the words aren’t functional, and that this may undermine the validity of the test. For this reason, they have created a new type of test: the FRAT (functional remote associates test), which focuses only on groups with a functional relationship.
Despite the popularity of the RAT Test there is still little evidence linking ability in the test with success in any specific field. However some studies have shown some validity to the test, i.e. high RAT test scorers also being shown as more productive when brainstorming solutions to complex problems.
The RAT test is a helpful (and fun) way to gauge how well people can employ creative convergent thinking to solve problems. It is likely that the test can measure some type of creative thinking, but it is by no means a complete test to our creative skills and talents.